Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Why Mexico?

It appears that Mexico is about to legalize currently illegal drugs, ranging from marijuana to heroin, for individual possession and use although not for sale. While I am, of course, in favor of legalization–would want it carried further–I remain puzzled about why it is happening. Is Mexico suffering under a sudden attack of sanity or is there something about its current political situation that I am missing?

31 Comments:

At 8:00 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Pablo said...

Well there is a very contentious election comming up and the current admin is afraid they may loose to the more liberal party - but my guess is that that is not it.

I know that there is a huge corruption problem with the police and judiciary. My guess is that it is more of an attack against these too. (though this of course could be tied to the election indirectly)

Or they just want to become the new Amsterdam and make Spring Break from US college kids a whole lot more fun?

 
At 8:20 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Mike Hammock said...

Ha, my reaction was exactly the same. "Hooray! But...why?" I have heard that the original plan was to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for serious addicts only, but that it somehow turned into a broader decriminalization program. That doesn't explain why this is happening in Mexico, but I suspect that the answer is lurking somewhere behind details like this.

 
At 10:28 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Mexico plans to stop arresting drug users so it can redirect police resources against large drug dealers. It's not exactly a libertarian move. The law may not even come into effect, since the president declined to sign it today. It's unclear if this is a result of U.S. pressure.

 
At 10:52 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous R.S. Porter said...

So, by the anarcho-capitalist reasoning, explain to me how, besides increasing personal freedom, drug legalization benefits a country?

I know I risk sounding like a collectivist here (I probably am in comparison, though I'd argue I'm not really, I swear!), but I'm very interested in understanding.

 
At 11:49 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Siderea said...

R.S. Porter asked, "So, by the anarcho-capitalist reasoning, explain to me how, besides increasing personal freedom, drug legalization benefits a country?"

Well, besides eliminating a black market and its attendent violent crime; increasing public safety by allowing the product to be regulated for purity and truth in advertising; reduction of the enormous public outlay for the law enforcement required by a violent black market and the prosecution of victim-less crimes, or the reallocating of those funds into catching and prosecuting criminals who are more of a threat to society; emptying out prisons of non-violent offenders; permitting patients access to live-saving, pain-ameliorating, or otherwise therapeutic drugs for which there are no (legal) substitutes and for lack of which some of them *die*...

Besides that, nothing much really.

 
At 12:30 AM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous R.S. Porter said...

Well I can understand the argument for pain and illness relief, at least in the case of marijuana. I'm not positive heroin is needed, since there's already morphine and I don't know what cocaine helps (but I'll admit it, I've never tired it.)

I'd also argue that increased drug use would lead to increased violence, though, yes, there would be more money for enforcement of such crimes. However I have two points:

"increasing public safety by allowing the product to be regulated for purity and truth in advertising"

I though that the anarcho-capitalist/libertarian belief is that regulation is bad and anti-freedom. No?

"emptying out prisons of non-violent offenders"

I'm just going to assume you mean non-violent drug offenders, and you don't mean all non-violent offenders should be released.

 
At 1:08 AM, May 04, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:09 AM, May 04, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

R.S. Porter writes:

"I'd also argue that increased drug use would lead to increased violence, though, yes, there would be more money for enforcement of such crimes."

Why? Most of the current violence is associated with the illegal nature of the industry, like liquor under prohibition. I haven't noticed Busweiser or Gallo using machine guns as part of their marketing plans lately.

Also, you mention morphine has an alternative to heroin. Historically it was the other way around. Heroin was developed as a safer alternative to morphine--and, I gather, is. I was by a doctor who appeared well informed on the subject that the most serious side effect of medical grade heroin is constipation.

 
At 2:08 AM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tourism.

 
At 2:08 AM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tourism

 
At 6:39 AM, May 04, 2006, Blogger Mike Hammock said...

Just to add another question, why did Fox propose this, support it, and then withdraw his support?
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060504/ts_nm/mexico_drugs_dc_5

 
At 6:41 AM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

r.s. porter wrote "So, by the anarcho-capitalist reasoning, explain to me how, besides increasing personal freedom, drug legalization benefits a country?"

In general I think that it's fairly hard to win by punishing weakly-connected root causes (like drug possession and consumption) rather than by pushing responsibility and authority down to individuals: punishing behavior that harms others, and allowing people to enjoy or suffer from the consequences of their own decisions. It's by no means *impossible* to win, but it's not the way to bet. Still I'd expect that the net outcome of legalization for the country would tend to be positive just because it would push authority and responsibility closer together.

I would pester r.s. porter with the classic question of whether ending Prohibition harmed the US, benefited the US, or what; and if porter doesn't hold the fringe position that ending Prohibition harmed the US, what is the difference that makes current drug prohibition more beneficial?

Admittedly the pushing of authority and responsibility together gets messy with people like children that we don't want to have authority. But it's not obvious to me that alcohol prohibition helped children, or that current drug prohibition helps children.

-- Bill Newman

 
At 10:25 AM, May 04, 2006, Blogger Mike Hammock said...

If you're interested in the economics of drug prohibition, I recommend this paper:

Jeffrey A. Miron, Jeffrey Zwiebel, "The Economic Case Against Drug Prohibition"
The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 9, No. 4. (Autumn, 1995), pp. 175-192.

David Friedman also has a draft of an article on drug prohibition and violence on his site:
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/drugs_and_violence/Drugs_and_violence.html

 
At 10:54 AM, May 04, 2006, Blogger Glen said...

For drugs to really become safe, you need to legalize sales as well as consumption. When sales are legal, sellers have a big reputational incentive to produce a safe, consistent, reliable product, whether it's "regulated" or not. Suppliers who sell shoddy products go broke, those who sell better products get repeat business and expand and advertise and become identifiable brands.

 
At 2:04 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous PlanMaestro said...

After several years of nothing happening in congress an outburst of important recent laws passed with support of the PAN and PRI:

1. The Televisa law
2. Anti-Trust regulation

Sometimes politics can have unintended positive consequences

 
At 2:50 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My reaction wasn't "Why Mexico?"

It was "What, no prostitutes?"

 
At 4:36 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, by the anarcho-capitalist reasoning, explain to me how, besides increasing personal freedom, drug legalization benefits a country?"

Many or most of the posters here might disagree with me but it's important remember that drugs aren't inherently bad. Besides the benefits of medical uses, and decreased violence and state power from legalization, drugs CAN greatly benefit the quality of life of resposible users. Spiritual and recreational use of substances is legitimate in my opinion. I think it is to the great detriment of society that more people haven't tried cannabis and the psychedelics.

 
At 7:16 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous R.S Porter said...

Why? Most of the current violence is associated with the illegal nature of the industry, like liquor under prohibition. I haven't noticed Busweiser or Gallo using machine guns as part of their marketing plans lately.

Well what I was trying to say was that a person is more likely to become violent with the use of drugs and alcohol. The violence i'm talking about is the drug addicted person that kills someone in a drugged state. I don't think the 'illegal nature' of it would cause someone to kill, I think it's a combination of the person and the drugs. But the drugs can make an otherwise sane, rational person, do insane things.

I was by a doctor who appeared well informed on the subject that the most serious side effect of medical grade heroin is constipation.

That may be true, but it can, most definitely be fatal in overdose--yes many things can, but it is, from my understanding, even worse. Not to mention the habit forming tendencies associated with hard drugs.

I understand that people should be able to do what they please with their bodies, but how does it help me, as in individual in society, to have more violent drug addicted people on the street. Doesn't the individual choice of some drug users impede on the physical saftey of many other individuals?

 
At 7:20 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous R.S. Porter said...

I think it is to the great detriment of society that more people haven't tried cannabis and the psychedelics.

I disagree wholeheartedly. I may, with some convincing, believe that people should be able to do what they want, but I don't think it should be encouraged. I think that a society that creates and invents without the use of stimulants is a better society. Of course everyone is going to argue what 'better' is, but that's why there are opinions.

 
At 8:30 PM, May 04, 2006, Blogger Russell said...

r.s. porter: The murder rate following the end of alcohol prohibition dropped steadily for ten years until it had fallen by half. Given that example, why do you think the murder rate following the end of drug prohibition would work EXACTLY OPPOSITE? Surely you must have some strong evidence for this.

 
At 9:19 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to r.s. porter:

You have to recognize that there are different kinds of "illicit" drugs with different effects, just as there are different "licit" drugs with different effects. Just because the drug Butazon causes blood cancer is no reason to condemn aspirin. Just because there have been instances of alcohol or PCP being a factor in violent crime or amphetamines and cocaine inducing peranoia does not prove that all drugs currently classed as "illicit" are do more harm than good for the users.

just because a drug can be abused or have harmful effects does not mean that it does not also have positive effects that may or may not outweigh the negative ones. The opiates (codeine, morphine, heroin, etc.), if used properly, relieve pain with out overly impairing normal function. They are a valuable tool if not abused.

Not only are all drugs painted with the same brush and their negative impacts magnified out of proportion, but also so much of the debate on the value of drugs is colored by inaccurate and out of date drug war propaganda.

For instance, much is made of "heroin overdose" but it's much harder to O.D. on heroin than on alcohol. This is even more true when it is economical and practical for the heroin user to smoke or ingest the chemical to get their high as black-market prices require the user to inject the chemical to get the most bang for their buck.

Cannabis and LSD are, for all intents and purposes, non-toxic. You can not smoke enough weed or drop enough acid to kill yourself(although you would want to die if you ever tried.)

Heroin and the opiates do not incline users to commit crime. Any one who has had morphine for pain after a surgery will attest that you don't really feel like doing anything on opiates. The same goes for many other "illicit" drugs. LSD, mescalin, marijuana, Ecstasy, tobacco, and others, they don't especially incline you to commit crimes or violence. It's helpful, for the sake of perspective, to compare "illicit" drugs to alcohol. Alcohol ruins families, bankrupts people, causes them to commit crimes and get STDs but many people drink and approve of drinking because it has certain social benefits and is fun and doesn't hurt anybody if used correctly.

I agree, just because certain activies should be legal doesn't mean that they should be encouraged or approved off, heroin and cocaine have ruined many lives, but it's important to have a sense of perspective and to not paint all drugs with the same brush.

 
At 10:56 PM, May 04, 2006, Blogger montestruc said...

The Drug "Kingpins" may be behind it. Mexico will keep large-scale drug trafficking illegal, protecting them from free-market competition, but legalizing it small scale which cuts the profit margin at the street level, and the cost so that US customers will "make a run for the border". Thus the drug "kingpin" avoids breaking any US laws, and so cannot be extradited to the USA and so avoids less bribe prone US cops. Profits up as many middle-men cut out of the picture, risks down as US cannot extradite. Sounds like a sane business decision for them to me.

Others will support the same policies for other reasons, but the drug "kingpins" have the cash to fund it.

 
At 12:04 AM, May 05, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Well what I was trying to say was that a person is more likely to become violent with the use of drugs and alcohol."

Surely that would depend on the drug. It isn't true of heroin or marijuana or Ecstasy; I'm not sure of others. But the major source of violence isn't the drugs, it's the distribution industry. And to the extent that legalizing drugs meant substituting marijuana for alcohol, I would expect violence as a direct result to go down.

r.s. also points out the danger of heroin overdoses. That's another argument for legalization, since overdoses are due to the poor quality control of an illegal market. Ibuprofen is dangerous in overdoses too--but the risk is low, since it comes in reliable quantities.

And, of course, so far as medical use is concerned, morphine also has a danger of overdose.

 
At 12:25 AM, May 05, 2006, Blogger Jadagul said...

Professor Friedman: Mark Kleiman at The Reality-Based Community seems to have the full story. Basically, the new law arguably strengthened Mexico's drug laws, since the old law diverted those with personal-use quantities into rehab and the new law would do the same, but would allow local police and not just the federales to enforce the drug laws. Doesn't necessarily matter so much anyway, since Fox pulled his support, but that seems to be the story. The blog has made several posts on the story; the one I linked to is the first.

 
At 10:28 AM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on people!... Netherlands have legal marijuana consumption in designated places an I can see no signs of "increased violence"...at least not beacuse of drug legalisation.

The problem with supposedly more numerous and more violent drug addicts everywhere is a myth!

Free society does NOT mean there can't be any private police force for instance - hired by the citizens of the town to secure their safety... Such police force would effectively eliminate potential drug addict threat. Moreover gun ownership being widespread and unregulated would be a great deterrent to such crimes.

And law would severely punish those who offend people's right to life, property or freedom. Drug addict or not..

Is it so impossible to imagine? Or think logically for a second...

 
At 7:09 AM, May 07, 2006, Anonymous albatross said...

The other pretty obvious possibility (I don't know enough details to be sure this is sensible) is that the Mexican government wants to remind us, during our immigration debate, that they, too, can do things that qualify as strictly internal policies, but that would really cause problems for us.

 
At 8:10 PM, May 10, 2006, Anonymous Alex said...

"it's important remember that drugs aren't inherently bad"

Forget "bad" for a moment and lets have a look at some bad effects of a couple of specific drugs. Certainly drugs have different and wide ranging effects -even many positive effects, as in medicine- but by in large recreational drugs alter "state of mind." In some cases drugs such as LSD cause hallucinations. When your perceptions are so drastically altered your judgement is necessarily impaired, as you lack a sense of reality. Where as rational thought is the normal process which prevents people from doing harmful things, in face of consequences, the ability to think rationally is often lost under the influence of drugs. Therefore, potentially more harmful actions. Where can we see a similarity? Alcohol. Many people behave far worse when they are intoxicated. In extreme cases this behaviour may be criminal. Often people who are perfectly law abiding do bad things which harm others under the influence of alcohol. Some may say, we allow alcohol so why not allow drugs? Because that would only put more fuel on the fire. Allowing drugs would give people more ways to lose control and be potentially harmful to others.

At the moment people who are hurt through involvement in drugs, are hurt because they have chosen to be involved in illegal activity. If you legalise drugs, people who are perfectly law abiding have more potential to be harmed by a someone who is drugged up to the point they're perception and rationality are lost. An individual's right to do to oneself as one wishes does not supercede society's right to peace, good order and safety.

 
At 8:11 PM, May 10, 2006, Anonymous alex said...

Haha, "Forget "bad" for a moment and lets have a look at some bad," I intended to say harmful.

 
At 5:19 PM, May 11, 2006, Anonymous Caliban said...

"When your perceptions are so drastically altered your judgement is necessarily impaired, as you lack a sense of reality. Where as rational thought is the normal process which prevents people from doing harmful things, in face of consequences, the ability to think rationally is often lost under the influence of drugs. Therefore, potentially more harmful actions."

You mean like voting Democrat?

Seriously, there is almost never any violence caused by people who take drugs and then lose control of their emotions, or who have hallucinations and think (for example) that another person is really an alien monster. Heroin and marijuana actually make people passive and lethargic, so they make people *less* violent.

Actually, the most dangerous drugs in terms of increasing violent tendencies among users are alcohol and PCP.

As far as I can tell, the poster I'm responding to has been tricked (as I was, when I was a youngster back in the '60's and '70's) by the same sorts of lies that said (for example) that violence is caused by rock 'n' roll making people lose control of their emotions. (Ban dat debbil jungle music!)
--
Caliban
"Faster, pussycat! Kill, kill!"

 
At 7:35 PM, May 12, 2006, Anonymous Jon said...

The U.S. borders seem destined to become more secure. With this will be a reduction in a source of income to Mexico. Legalizing drugs that are currently illegal allows a transition of income sources.

 
At 1:45 AM, May 16, 2006, Anonymous js290 said...

Maybe Mexico doesn't have a pharmacutical industry that needs its profits protected by the government?

 

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